Archive for the ‘Math & Science’ Category

Care well for your children = Vaccinate

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Rarely does a clear case of scientific fraud come up (rare as in ratio of fraudulant research to research). Even rarer does it cost lives .. children’s lives! Link to British Medical Journal article (full text), and pdf file of actual data compares, if you need to see that.

Just shocking! Please, plelase, please vaccinate your kids.

Enuf said.

Time and Tisza = living on the river

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010
Mayflys on the Tisza River, Silas 2009

GIANT Mayflys on the Tisza River, Silas 2009

I just listened to a wonderful interview of Susan Silas, by Will Corwin of, on the occasion of the opening of her exhibit, Helmbrecht’s Walk. It is at the Hebrew Union College Museum on One West 4th Street, NYC, and will be up for the academic year ending in June 2010.

She talks about the walk, of course, but also covers decaying birds and giant mayflys on the Tisza River in Hungary, all apropos of time passing. My dad often swam in the Tisza when he lived in Szolnok and worked at the Cukorgyar (beet sugar factory) before WWII. He always had plenty of sweets to treat the girls on the beach.

Makes me anticipate even more Sean Carroll’s book, From Eternity to Here, due out this week. Then I’ll have the art and science of time covered.

Wishing everyone a sweet New Year!

Innovation = It isn’t rocket science

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Oh yeah, … it is!

This is based on real events, and was produced and directed by a NASA astronaut.

On a brighter note, the 2009 online calendar for Yuri’s night parties worldwide is up.

“Yuri Gagarin was the first human to go into space on April 12th, 1961. The US Space Shuttle first launched on April 12th, 1981. Yuri’s Night is like the St Patricks Day or Cinco de Mayo for space. It is one day when all the world can come together and celebrate the power and beauty of space and what it means for each of us.”

Interestingly, there is no party yet for either Boston nor Moscow.

Mystery Mathematicians by Eisenstaedt = D. Blackwell

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

As we guessed, some of the uncaptioned photographs by Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt are indeed of famous mathematicians. We’ve identified 3. Here is the first.

David Blackwell, is perhaps the world’s most famous black mathematician. While the Rao-Blackwell theorem may be his most important, his favorite paper is On an Equation by Wald, written while teaching at Howard University, where he taught for 10 years after a postdoc at the Institute for Advanced Study with the likes of Einstein and Von Neumann in 1941 at age of 22. That appointment included nomination as a Visiting Fellow at Princeton, causing controversy and opposition from the University adminstration. Perhaps that is why he only applied to teach at black colleges.

In 1954 things had changed sufficiently to where he could move to the new Statistics department at UC Berkeley. In 1965, a year after these photos were taken, he became the first black elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He co-wrote a classic textbook that is still in print. There is a wondeful interview from 2002 online. Professor Blackwell is actively retired in Northern California with his large family. Next April 24th he celebrates his 90th birthday.

!eggstrondinary = BA on APOD (again)

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Okay, its Autumnal not Vernal, but can’t an Equinox go by without egg balancing, and the obligatory reference to the Bad Astronomer’s explanations.  According to the Astronomy Picture of the Day (available as a Windows background), edited by Robert Nemiroff, who has a free Astronomy course online, and Jerry Bonnell, apparently no.   APOD again published the picture of BA Plait (whose new book is out October 20th) balancing eggs in his kitchen.  The kids above show Phil up by balancing eggs on their (Blefuscudian) small end.

Update: eggPOD

Coming Tomorrow = the coldest place in the Universe + 100,000 times the temperature of the center of the Sun

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

What is simultaneously the coldest place in the Universe and 100,000 times the temperature of the Sun?  It is also the largest machine ever built – the Large Haldron Collider (LHC) – scheduled for first light beam tomorrow.  Check out the popular rap.  

It will take months to tune the beam to full power, but the LHC’s ATLAS detector should definitively answer the question of whether the Higgs particle exists or not.  Higgs is the famous “God” particle which would explain the reason for mass.  It is the only particle in the Standard Model of Physics yet to be observed. The Atom Smashers is a documentary film of the competition to discover Higgs before the LHC came online.

Equally interesting is the ALICE experiment, pictured above being inserted into the Time Projection Chamber (this is not science fiction!). Instead of smashing protons, ALICE will look at the quark/gluon soup created from smashing something heavier (lead), a recipe that hasn’t existed since shortly after the Big Bang. It may answer questions like why we find the Universe is mostly matter instead of matter/antimatter, and what is that mysterious Dark matter.

You can participate with LHC@home. The voyage begins tomorrow with live video from CERN.

Steve Sigur = Teacher, Music & Nature Lover, Triangle Geometer

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

In 2004 he was the first high school teacher to be an invited speaker at the MAA’s MathFest.  Steve Sigur also co-wrote a book with arguably the most famous mathematician of our time, John H. Conway.  Aside from being a gifted mathematician - as the many testimonies of his students attest [1][2][3][4], Steve Sigur was, for nearly 30 years, a gifted teacher.  When stricken with the same deadly brain cancer that recently afflicted Senator Edward Kennedy, he underwent experimental procedures at Duke University that enabled him to continue teaching for over a year; and incidentally, finish his triangle-shaped-full-color-with-software-included-book, The Triangle Book (not available yet).

As Philip Davis’ 1995 paper (pdf) points out, triangles have a long and rich history, from Euler’s Elements to the work of Emile Lemoine.  To understand beyond 1995 The Modern Geometry of the Triangle you must read Sigur’s paper (pdf).  His web pages are chock full of triangle math and other delights.  But the crown jewel is a set of interviews the Paideia School did with him.  Here he discusses his love for life.

Steve Sigur died last month.

Simple = Not Simon

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Simon Plouffe has a new Inverter containing over 2.459 BILLION constants.  A few of the most interesting ones are named after mathematicians.  Can you match the constant with the name(s) without looking?

Favorite Constants